Commentary Magazine


Minimizing the Iranian Threat

The art of spin doctoring must be a prerequisite for high office in the UN mandarinate. The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Dr Mohammad ElBaradei is overqualified. Yesterday, ElBaradei gave an interview to Israel’s Channel 10 during which he said that Iran does not have “even the nuclear material, the raw unenriched uranium to develop one nuclear weapon if they decide to do so.” He therefore concluded that Iran is still far from acquiring nuclear weapons.

This is remarkable, given the string of ElBaradei’s past declarations. In December 2005, for example, ElBaradei estimated that Iran was “months away from a bomb.” He repeated this assessment last June, during an interview with the Arab satellite channel, al-Arabiya. And less than a month ago, he had stated that Iran “has the cookbook… but right now they don’t yet have the ingredients – enough nuclear material to make a bomb overnight.”

Now, these are just news reports, and one could even say that there is no inconsistency in all of the above statements. After all, a nuclear program is a dynamic process with many unknowns – and if one thread consistently runs through all the above statements, it is the following: Iran has the knowledge to build a bomb, but not the toolkit – not yet at least. This means that left unhindered, Iran will eventually produce its bomb. It is a relief, of course, to know that Dr El Baradei thinks this is not happening yet. But look how many news outlets have extrapolated from one sentence that Iran’s program should not concern us that much. The notion that there is suddenly no urgency is a well spun argument, but it does not change the underlying reality: unless actively opposed, Iran’s quest for a nuclear capability, eventually, will bear fruit.